The refrigerator’s still full of turkey leftovers and pumpkin pie, and yet it’s already the start of the Christmas season. If you’re concerned about the impact of your holiday season on the environment, then it’s time to start doing a little planning.
According to the website Earth911.org, household waste increases 25 percent each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. When it comes to decoration, the Christmas tree, and the way you package your gifts, there are a wide variety of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.
With just a little forethought, it’s possible to have a holiday without filling up the garbage can, doubling your electric bill, or taking up even more space in the attic.
Here are some thoughts on having a “green” Christmas this year.
• Of course it’s fun to buy the latest and greatest Christmas decorations every year, but here’s an alternative: You can often find inexpensive and interesting décor at thrift stores.
And of course, if you have gently used Christmas decorations you don’t need any more, then donate them to one of the many charity resale stores in our area.
• Ready to put up the lights? Then consider making an investment in light strings that will lower your electricity usage. According to the website Christmas Lights Etc. (www.christmaslightsetc.com), there are many different choices in LED Christmas lights, from retro-look bulbs to mini ice lights.
Advantages of LED Christmas lights are the same as any other LED light: Their light emitting diodes are cooler than traditional incandescent lights, and so have less chance of overheating or causing fires, and also tend to last longer.
It takes the same amount of electricity to power 140 LED lights as it does to light up a single 7-watt bulb, according to the Energy Star people, so LED lights will make your electricity dollar go much, much further.
And if you really want to get frugal, check out the new solar-powered light strings for yards and outdoor Christmas trees at a website called www.solarchristmaslights.org. Then, as long as sunlight is sufficient, you can put up as many lights as you want without increasing your electric bill by one penny.
LED lights are not much more expensive that traditional lights, but the solar-powered LEDs are a bit pricey, so the initial outlay will be more.
• When buying gifts, think local. By purchasing handmade items from area craftspeople and artists, you are supporting your hometown folks, and what you buy probably won’t have a ton of packaging around it.
• Wrapping paper and ribbons have been staples of Christmas for many years, but it’s time to give thought to wrapping presents in a new way, or perhaps not wrapping them at all.
According to the Daily Beast, you can wrap presents in newspaper or colorful magazine pages, fabric scraps or scarves; you can put gifts in reusable boxes or gift bags; or make the wrapping part of the present, such as placing jewelry in a carved wooden box that can be put to other uses by the gift recipient.
Gift cards are another option, since these are made of PVC plastic and can be recycled by the store they came from.
If wrapping or bows are used, try to recycle them for next year.
• Use real tableware and plates for your holiday gatherings, rather than disposable plates and plastic forks. Not only is it less wasteful, let’s face it, it’s a nice touch to the festivities. Also consider fabric tablecloths and napkins for your parties.
• So many choices when it comes to Christmas trees, but when in doubt, go for the real thing. Artificial trees can be reused, but not recycled, and are petroleum-based products primarily manufactured in China.
Although some people balk at cutting down a real tree for holiday use, don’t forget that the tree wouldn’t have been planted at all, had there not been a demand for it. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, trees help the earth by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, stabilizing soil and providing a refuge for wildlife. Christmas tree growers plant one to three new seedlings for every tree harvested.
You can also buy a living tree and plant it in your yard after the holidays are finished.
• After the presents have been opened and the wrapping paper recycled, you can give the earth a gift and recycle your Christmas tree. Many municipalities across the United States offer a curbside recycling program, or dropoff points for used Christmas trees. The trees are then chipped and returned to the earth.
Be sure to remove ornaments, tinsel and tree stands before you recycle, however.